When animals (terrier dogs in particular) are found with the snake, the need to call the vet is obvious. However, sometimes your pet may have encountered a snake out of your sight such as when they’re exploring in long grass. Last week the clinic saw the first snake bite of the season, so we thought it worth a reminder of the signs you may see in your animals when they’ve been bitten:
- The dog or cat may collapse and be vomiting or drooling excessively. This can be followed by apparent recovery but indicates a potentially lethal bite
- Dilated pupils
- Purple gum colour
- Drooling and panting excessively
- Weak and wobbly in back legs or unable to rise
- Red or brown coloured urine
- Alternatively, your pet may develop delayed symptoms of lethargy, vomiting and weight loss with muscle wastage
The signs above are due to the potent toxins that snakes have in their venom that damage the nerves, muscles and blood cells. Snake bites are an emergency and dog and cats that have been bitten can deteriorate very rapidly. It is vital to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible if you suspect your dog or cat has been bitten by a snake. Call the clinic ahead so that we can be prepared for when you arrive.
Dogs and cats that have been bitten by a snake can be given antivenom, and the success rate of treatment can be high if given early. Animals will also need to be hospitalised on a drip. The length of hospital stay will depend on the severity of the bite, but in uncomplicated cases, pets often go home within 2-3 days.
It’s also a good time to discuss snakebite awareness with family and farm workers and ensure everyone knows the key first aid measures (St John Ambulance information sheet available here.
You may come up with ways to be better prepared for snake bites, such as keeping pressure bandages in the ute and making sure you always have your phone in your pocket.